I spent a chunk of Sunday watching debate of the health care reform bill on the House floor. Today, that bill was signed into law. Whatever your politics, it is an historic moment. And it’s one that I personally celebrate.
Health care debate is not abstract for me. I was a grad student when Bill Clinton tried and failed to pass health care reform. Back then, I wrote a treatise on the absurd economics of American health care. Since then I’ve lived those absurdities.
- My husband lost a job once and was offered COBRA health care coverage with a price tag higher than our mortgage payment.
- A teacher changed jobs in the midst of medical problems and learned her new insurer would not cover continued visits to doctors who had treated her for years.
- Relatives who didn’t qualify for affordable preventive care to remain healthy at home found they could get higher-priced nursing home care at government expense.
- Seniors I drove to pharmacies for multiple prescriptions left empty-handed when they saw the bill.
Health care is a conundrum for small business owners, too.
- The mother of my child’s middle-school classmate was diagnosed with cancer. The family owned their own business and nearly lost their home because of the illness. She survived, but became uninsurable because of her “pre-existing medical condition.”
- A guy I know wants to offer employer-sponsored health insurance but can’t afford it. His workers buy their own insurance; and he pays for it. It skirts the law but is the cheapest way to do the right thing.
In all the debate, we’ve lost sight of these flesh-and-blood people. Congressmen and senators have talked in soundbites, denouncing government “take-over” of health care, invoking the image of illegal immigrants benefiting from a system for which they have paid nothing.
Several Congressmen sermonized about the unborn who might be aborted at taxpayer expense. One called his fellow lawmaker a “baby killer” for supporting the legislation. Mind you, some of these people claim conservative, Christian, family-values credentials.
I asked myself, “What would Jesus do”?
The Bible has much to say about the poor, the orphan, the stranger among us and how love for God should translate to “loving your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus cares about all human life – before and after birth. He cares that people get sick and sometimes die in misery because they cannot afford care in a country whose medical care arguably is the best in the world.
The new health care law, like all man-made things, isn’t perfect. But it is a start. Some in Washington have vowed to repeal it, insisting the American people don’t want health care reform. The sick ones do. The rest don’t yet realize the difference one illness can make.